Friday, December 31, 2010

Pushing Sun Valley back into prominence

City and resort focus efforts on building tourism


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

A model posing as a skier rides the chairlift up Bald Mountain in 1941. Ketchum can be seen far below. Sun Valley Resort celebrates its 75th season this winter. Photo courtesy of The Community Library’s Regional History Department

Collaborations were the common thread for both the city of Sun Valley and Sun Valley Resort in 2010, as they set their sights on pushing the tourist destination back into prominence. After a yearlong, contentious debate, the city approved on Dec. 16 a plan to partner with Ketchum and pay $400,000 to the newly created Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, a radical shift in the cities' marketing efforts. Ketchum also paid $400,000.

This marketing shift started with Sun Valley City Councilman Bob Youngman's presentation in early 2010 demonstrating that the tourist economies of Sun Valley and Ketchum have been in a downward spiral much longer than the recession. Since then, the cities have been dead set on drawing more visitors here. They assembled a committee to look into the problem and suggest a solution, which was to drop the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau as area marketer and create a marketing board to be given the chamber's funding. Chamber Executive Director Carol Waller resigned in August as the chamber prepared for cutbacks. Mere weeks later, the chamber merged with the new marketing board to form the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. The marketing board now has the funding it requested and will present its marketing plan in January.

Festivals kick off, championships coming

Groups from across the Wood River Valley joined forces in January to put on the first-ever Sun Valley Nordic Festival. Late May welcomed the Sun Valley Volleyball Classic. A month later came the four-day Sun Valley Rhythm and Ride: Bike and Musical Festival. USA Cycling then announced in September that the 2011 and 2012 Mountain Biking National Championships would be held on Sun Valley Resort's Dollar Mountain.

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Base village in the works

After eight months of government meetings, the Ketchum City Council approved Sun Valley Resort's request to annex into the city 138 acres of resort land near Bald Mountain's River Run base. The development would consist of numerous single- and multi-family housing units and a retail core on the Big Wood River's east bank, including a 110-foot-tall hotel. The resort plans to develop the land in phases over the next 15-20 years.

Sun Valley hits 75th season

Sun Valley Resort, the country's first destination ski resort, is celebrating its 75th season this winter. In commemoration of its Dec. 21, 1936, opening day, the resort held an Olympian-filled ice show on Dec. 21. Many well-known figure skaters performed, but 2010 Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek was the star. The monumental season will wrap up with the inductions of Sun Valley Resort owner Earl Holding and former Sun Valley ski racer Muffy Davis into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

To feed or not to feed?

Wintertime elk feeding has long been a hot topic in Sun Valley. That was no different last winter, when Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich proposed in February to reinstate elk feeding. The group wanting to do the feeding is the Wood River Elk Trust, led by Willich's wife, Christine Willich. However, the organization would need the permission of the Sun Valley Elkhorn Association, whose private land would be used for the feeding. And the association took Idaho Fish and Game's advice to not feed. Willich announced the effort as being scrubbed in late April, but the controversy wages on as Christine Willich and the Wood River Elk Trust look for a way to feed elk.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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